OREGON – After spending a number of years a vice chairman of the Ogle County Board, John Finfrock had learned a lot about how the county operates.
That will serve him well as Finfrock is now chairman of the Board after the sudden death of former Chairman Kim Gouker.
“There was some trepidation there because this wasn’t in the script,” Finfrock said of being elected chairman at the County Board’s Sept. 17 meeting.
Finfrock, who is retired from Kable News Co. and lives in Mount Morris, was first elected to the Board in 2010. He had served as vice chairman since 2012, when Gouker asked him to fill the role. He said he told Gouker he would do it, as long as it was understood that if asked his opinion, he would certainly give it.
“We didn’t always agree, but we always worked something out,” Finfrock said of Gouker.
Finfrock said Gouker’s death was “unbelievable.” He said that when Gouker did not show up for county meetings on consecutive days, they knew something was wrong. Gouker was found dead at his Byron home during a wellness check on Sept. 10.
Finfrock admitted that he will have big shoes to fill following Gouker as chairman. But he said he is confident.
“Basically, the board’s in good shape,” he said. “The county’s in good shape. We’ve got probably the best group of board members that I’ve been around since I came on the board.”
Another plus is that the county has a strong group of department heads, and that they all work well together.
“We all debate, and we all have our own ideas,” Finfrock said. “But when there’s a vote, the vote is it and you move on from there.”
He said that he plans to stay “on the course that is charted.” He said there may be some little differences in leadership, “but the objective is still the same.”
First, the focus is on getting the new Judicial Annex completed, which was a priority for Gouker. He said the county is also facing issue like solar power and the question of how to handle legal cannabis.
But he main focus for now is keeping the county moving forward.
“I’d like to see the cohesiveness of the board itself stay where it is, because we’ve got a lot of cohesion there and a lot of people are engaged,” Finfrock said. “I’m not going to try to change much. Everything’s working well right now.”
As he settles into his new role, Finfrock said fellow Board members and county department heads have approached him to ask how they can help.
“And that is a boost you can’t believe,” he said. “But that’s the kind of people they are.”